Pilot ID'd as Salena Short of Tyler, Texas


Was at Cannon Creek visiting a fellow pilot

  • First responders are pictured at the scene shortly after a single-engine plane crashed into a Lake City home Saturday morning. (Ray Carpenter Photography)
    First responders are pictured at the scene shortly after a single-engine plane crashed into a Lake City home Saturday morning. (Ray Carpenter Photography)

The pilot of a single-engine plane is dead after crashing into a home on Inwood Court in the Creekside subdivision Saturday morning. The occupants of the home, a woman and her 7-year-old son, were unhurt.

The pilot was Salena Short, according to Bill Jennings, who purchased a home in the Cannon Creek Airpark about three months ago. Short was visiting Jennings from Texas. Jennings said Short's family had been notified of her death.

"In November, Salena sold me a gyrocopter," Jennings said. "We've been friends ever since." 

Shortly after 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Short took off in a single-engine plane from the airpark, crashing into the home of Shane Renee Thomson not long after being airborne. Thomson and her son Ethan, 7, escaped injury. 

Short, who was 61 years old, had flown into Lake City on Tuesday and was returning to her home in Tyler, Texas, on Saturday when she crashed. On Friday, her plane had undergone some maintenance, mainly to clean out its rocker covers; however, the plane was otherwise sound, Jennings said.

Short had a childhood love of flying and when she started dating her future husband, Gary Buster, a pilot himself, she got to experience flying in small planes first hand. It wouldn't be long before she would be piloting planes herself. 

Buster died of a heart attack in July 2018 while visiting London, less than two months after he and Short married. Short used flying to cope with the loss. 

"Oh how I’ve missed flying, truly the best therapy ever for me," she wrote in a Facebook post in November.

Murray Smith, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office public information officer, was at the scene of the crash. He told the Reporter that the National Transportation Safety Board, out of Cocoa Beach, would be leading the investigation, with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration out of Orlando. The Florida Highway Patrol will also be part of the investigation because the wreckage partly littered a public road. The NTSB arrived on the scene within hours of the accident.

Rhonda and Jack Russell of Lake City were on their way to the home of Thomson, their daughter, to pick up Ethan for a basketball game at Parkview Baptist Saturday morning when they got word a plane had crashed into the house.

“Our daughter said a plane had just hit their house,” Rhonda said at the scene about a half-hour after the crash. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

They got there a few minutes later to find their daughter and grandson outside and unharmed.

“It is a miracle,” Rhonda said.

Shane Renee was standing by the front window of the home when the plane struck and Ethan was playing his keyboard just a few feet away.

“Then all of the sudden it hit,” Rhonda said. “She saw a flash of orange as it exploded.”

The plane struck the roof above a bay window on the front of the home in an apparent glancing blow then disintegrated and burned. 

Shane Renee and Ethan escaped through the garage. “There were flames but they ducked down and got out,” Rhonda said.

On the way out they grabbed Ethan’s toy Chewbacca of Star Wars fame from the laundry room.

“It stunk of smoke,” Rhonda said. “We’re going to get him a new one.”

Shane Renee is upset and Ethan is “pretty scared,” Jack Russell said. “It’s almost like he’s in shock.”

Jack and Rhonda were grateful their daughter and grandson were safe, but their hearts went out to the family of the pilot.

“It’s an awful thing,” Jack said. 

The Red Cross is poised to offer aid to Shane Renee and Ethan but Rhonda said she and Jack were there to take care of them.

Along with all their neighbors.

“They have wonderful neighbors here,” Rhonda said.

The home is damaged with a hole in the roof but appears structurally intact from the outside.